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The Hidden Dangers of Old Tires

Tires have a limited service life. Over time, a tire’s internal structure degrades or breaks own, reducing adhesion between the belts, which in turn leads to tread separation. Tread separation has caused very serious accidents.

Tire components dry out with age causing the adhesion between them to break down. This internal breakdown happens regardless of tread use and wear. It is invisible and cannot be seen, even by tire experts, without destructive testing.

Current studies suggest that in-use tires age no more than those stored as spares on the same vehicle. In other words, age degradation occurs regardless of whether the tire is being driven on or not.

Used tire sales make up a huge market in the  United States; an estimated 30 million used tires are sold each year. Many consumers buy used tires through tire dealers, swap meets, flea markets, and online forums. Regardless of their age, tires with adequate tread and without any visible defect are likely to find their way onto a vehicle.

Although tire and vehicle manufacturers have been aware of the age degradation problem for years; service shops, dealers, and consumers have been left dangerously uninformed.


The National Safety Council offers these tips for coping with tire trouble:

  • At the first sign of tire trouble, grip the steering wheel firmly.
  • Don’t slam on the brakes. Let the car slow down gradually by taking your foot off the gas pedal.
  • Turn your emergency flashers on.
  • Work your vehicle toward the breakdown lane or, if possible, toward an exit.
  • When all four wheels are off the pavement, brake lightly and cautiously until you stop.
  • Have the car well off the pavement and away from traffic before stopping, even if proceeding to a place of safety means rolling along slowly with the bad tire flapping.  Don’t worry about damaging the tire; it is probably ruined anyway.

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